Expert Articles

My Employee Did What? Know Your Company’s Liability During Seasonal Celebrations

SPHR of C.H.A.R.T. Consulting

Nadine F. Pfautz

SPHR C.H.A.R.T. Consulting

Imagine this – At the company seasonal celebration, one of your employees has too much to drink. On their way home they are in an auto accident.

Imagine this – At the company holiday party, one of your supervisors makes inappropriate comments about another employee.

Imagine this – Embarrassing pictures from your company holiday get together appear on Facebook and a customer sees them.

Can’t even imagine it – as managment we should, since these are not unusual situations. Under the law you are liable for the behavior of your employees not only at work but also at company-sponsored events.

What can you do to protect yourself and your company? Here are some hints taken from articles on the subject as found on the Society for Human Resource Management website.

1. Consider distributing a memo reminding people that the normal rules of business still apply.

a. Review with your employees your policies on harassment, retaliation, workplace violence, alcohol use,  and dress code.

b. Discuss ahead of time the guidelines about posting company party images/comments on social media outlets

c. If exchanging gifts, remind employees to avoid “gag” gifts that might be considered offensive.

2. If you are going to have entertainment – keep it clean.

3. Remind direct supervisors that they “will be on duty at the party.” Ensure managers know how to handle any complaints they might receive or inappropriate behavior they might observe.

4. If you do decide to serve alcohol:

a. Consider a cash bar or a ticket system instead of an open bar

b. Limit options available to beer and wine

c. Be prepared to provide a cab for anyone who appears to have indulged too much

d. Offer plenty of food and have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available

e. Cease serving alcoholic beverages one hour before the planned close of the party

f. Invite spouses and significant others to keep an eye on your employees, and if necessary, get them home safely

Seem like common-sense? Yes, it is. But, when people begin to get into the spirit of the celebration inhibitions may go down and people may not act the way they normally act around their colleagues. If you don’t currently have policies or guidelines in place, it is my suggestion you implement parameters before your seasonal celebration turns into a company nightmare.







Since 2004 Nadine F. Pfautz, SPHR of C.H.A.R.T. Consulting has provided human resource consulting services to businesses throughout Massachusetts. With an M.S. in Training and Development and with more than 20 years experience in her field and as an adjunct faculty member and seminar presenter, Ms. Pfautz is available to assist companies establish fair and equitable policies, comply with legal responsibilities, employee training needs, employee relations issues, HR functions, and advanced human resource management responsibilities.